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BREAKING NEWS: Tampa Same Sex Divorce Dismissed by Trial Judge; Parties to Appeal

Many people have been following a matter that I am involved in, the same sex divorce case in Tampa, Florida.  Well, the judge just issued her ruling, and she dismissed the amended petition for dissolution of the parties’ marriage.

In her order, Judge Lee writes the following:

The Petitioner filed her initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on January 15, 2014.  Thereafter, the parties entered into the collaborative divorce process and successfully completed that process.  As a result, the parties voluntarily entered into a Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement on March 14, 2014.  Subsequently, on March 17, 2014, the Petitioner filed her Amended Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and asked the court to accept jurisdiction of the subject matter, dissolve the marriage of the parties, and adopt and incorporate the Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement into a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

RELATED: Tampa Same Sex Divorce and Collaborative Practice

As alleged in the Amended Petition, the parties married …in the State of Massachusetts.  The parties are a same-sex couple. While the State of Massachusetts authorizes and recognizes same-sex marriages, by current law the State of Florida does not authorize or recognize such unions.

Specifically, in 2008, Florida citizens amended Article I of the Florida Constitution by voter initiate to provide as follows:

Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.  Art. I, s. 27, Fla. Const.

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Florida Bar Video: Collaborative Divorce

The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyer Division has produced the following video which discusses collaborative divorce, the growing private and respectful method of resolving family law disputes.  The video features collaborative attorney Elaine Silver, with whom I serve on the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida.

(Click “Continue Reading” to View Video)

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Tampa Same Sex Divorce and Collaborative Practice

Same Sex Couple Seeks Divorce in Florida

Same Sex Couple Seeks Divorce in Florida

I have recently been involved in a Tampa family law matter that has made a couple of headlines lately. I represent a client who married her wife in Massachusetts, they moved to Florida, and ultimately they decided that their same sex marriage was irretrievably broken. The women reached a full settlement on all their marital issues, and, as the media has reported, now they are asking the court to grant them a divorce.

Related: In a Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter that I am Gay?

Related: Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

What has gotten far less attention is the fact that the women reached a full settlement agreement and formed a united front using the private collaborative family law process.

Unlike the more familiar divorce proceedings where parties hire gunslinger lawyers and have their dirty laundry aired in public courthouses, these women each retained a collaboratively-trained attorney (Ellen Ware and myself) who are experienced in respectful and interest-based negotiations. We attorneys were hired specifically to focus on reaching an amicable settlement in private offices; we both agreed that we would not inflame the situation by “building a case” against the other party and bringing arguments between the clients into the public courtroom.

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Collaborative Process and Religious Values in Tampa Bay

A friend of mine, leading Tampa Bay collaborative attorney, and fellow member of Next Generation Divorce George Melendez recently wrote a blog post after he and I had a discussion on how collaborative family law practice can help members of various faith communities.  George has made it his mission to communicate with clergy that divorce and custody issues effect not only the parties and their children, but also the community at large.

Though dealing with divorce in any process will be difficult, it is George’s (and my) sincere belief that the collaborative family law process is the best way to handle not only the legal, but also the emotional, financial, and even spiritual consequences of divorce.  This is because, as opposed to the traditional, adversarial courtroom divorce process, the collaborative process encourages cooperation and respectful communication among participants, and it requires clients to focus on what is most important to them, such as their children and their values.

Below is an excerpt of George Melendez’s blog post on Religious and Cultural Sensitivities; A Collaborative Ideal:

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Bay News 9 Video: Collaborative Divorce in Tampa Bay

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I strongly believe that the traditional adversarial courtroom divorce is destructive to families, and so I am a strong proponent of the private, respectful collaborative divorce process.  I am also president of a local collaborative practice group known as Next Generation Divorce which is comprised of over 90 collaboratively-trained attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals dedicated to helping families in Hillsborough, Sarasota, Pinellas, Pasco, and Manatee Counties.

As a representative of collaborative professionals, I oftentimes get the opportunity to speak to mental health, religious, and other organizations about collaborative family law.  Last year, I was also interviewed, along with my colleague, Joryn Jenkins, by Bay News 9 on the practice of collaborative divorce in Tampa Bay.

You can view the entire interview here.

If you have questions on how the collaborative process can save your family from the devastating effects of courtroom divorce, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

What Can I Do To Reduce The Costs Of My Florida Divorce?

Going through divorce in Florida can be a very expensive proposition.  No matter which path you choose for your divorce, you are going to be spending money.  However, there are things you can do to reduce your costs.

1.  Agree to the Collaborative Family Law Process

The first thing you and your spouse can do is retain collaboratively-trained attorneys and agree to use the collaborative family law process.  In the collaborative process, you and your spouse each hire separate attorneys for the sole purpose of helping you reach a settlement.  Collaborative attorneys are prevented by contract from engaging in expensive contested courtroom proceedings.  Accordingly, they focus their attention – and your resources – on helping you and your spouse come to an agreement, rather than preparing for trial or playing litigation games.

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Is A Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Quicker Than A Courtroom Divorce?

Whenever a potential divorce client comes to my Tampa office, I always make sure to discuss the various process options for dissolving his or her marriage in Florida.

I discuss the litigation option, where the parties battle it out in a courtroom and let a judge decide how to divide their assets and raise their children.  I discuss the mediation option, a form of alternative dispute resolution where the parties may resolve the entire dispute themselves, but where the parties and their attorneys always leave the option open of going back into courtroom battle mode.

And I discuss the collaborative option, where the spouses, and their attorneys, agree from the beginning that they are not going to let a judge decide personal, private matters such as who is going to tuck their children into bed at night; rather the spouses and their attorneys are going to act like adults, and respectfully and privately come to an agreement on important issues such as how to raise their children.

One of the most frequent questions I am asked when discussing the different divorce methods is which option is the quickest.

Though the timing of each option depends on the ability of the parties to communicate, among other factors, I have found the following to be true in my practice:  All of my Collaborative Divorce cases have been resolved more quickly than any of my litigation or mediation cases.

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Collaborative Law Answer to Divorce Corp. Highlighted Problems

A film entitled “Divorce Corp.” has been getting a lot of buzz lately by highlighting some of the problems with the current state of divorce.  Though the film has been controversial among family law professionals, as it is said to focus on the extreme of family law cases, there is an answer to the traditional courtroom divorce industry as portrayed in Divorce Corp.: collaborative law, which is now offered throughout Florida.

Collaborative attorney Sandra Crawford recently wrote a piece about collaborative law for the Courier-News in response to Divorce Corp.:

The philosophy behind collaborative law is simple: Even if your marriage fails, that doesn’t mean you have to carry that failure over into your post-marriage lives.

Traditionally, divorces have been litigated matters, characterized by drawn-out, expensive and combative affairs in which each side “lawyers up.”

Now practiced in at least 25 countries, collaborative divorce (aka collaborative law or collaborative practice) is a “no-court-client-centered” dispute resolution process that separating spouses can use with the help of professionals (licensed legal, mental health and financial professionals) trained in collaborative law and mediation.

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Video: Tampa Collaborative Law Streamlined Protocols Training Overview

Attorneys, psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, accountants, financial advisers, and mediators interested in being trained to offer cost-effective collaborative practice services to family law and other clients will have the opportunity March 20-22, 2014, in Tampa, Florida.  Next Generation Divorce and the Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group are sponsoring a 3-day basic and advanced training in the Streamlined Protocols of Collaborative Law.

Vicki Carpel-Miller, one of the collaborative trainers, provides an overview of the streamlined protocols training in the video below (after the jump):

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Collaborative Divorce Consultation: I Will Meet With Both Spouses

When prospective divorce clients call in my Tampa office and ask whether both spouses can attend a consultation, they are often relieved to learn that I am willing to meet with both spouses.  I did not always have this policy.  In fact, most Florida divorce attorneys refuse to allow both parties to attend a consultation together.

There is a strict prohibition against an attorney representing both parties to a divorce, and most lawyers want to avoid even the appearance of representing both spouses.

And I, like other attorneys, cannot represent both spouses.  But what I can do is invite divorcing spouses into my office and discuss with them the available process options.  Of course, I will talk with them about traditional litigation, which is the court battle that often comes to mind when people think about divorce.  I will bring up mediation, which is a great form of alternative dispute resolution that allows parties to come to an agreement, but which leaves open the door for their mediation attorneys to engage in detrimental litigation if a full settlement is not reached.

And I will talk about collaborative divorce, which is a voluntary, private process in which the parties and their attorneys agree from the very beginning that they do not want to engage in nasty, public court fights.  In fact, the spouses, who each will have their own individual attorney, sign a participation agreement that states that their attorneys must withdraw if the parties cannot come to an agreement.  Collaborative divorce has a success rate of nearly 90%, so this withdrawal clause hardly ever comes into play, but it allows clients to be open in negotiations without worrying that their spouse’s attorney is keeping an ear open for opposition research to use in trial later on.

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